Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Weight Loss for Writers
It is my understanding that most writers tell their story lavishly, at first, spending words like they had no credit limit. For them, writing is a weight loss program. They go back with a scalpel and excise the extravagance until only the leanest story is left.
I write leanly to begin with. On the second and subsequent reads I usually find a few words that I can slice away without affecting meaning. On nearly every read of every section I find some little tweak to make.
My major rewrite, though, is when I go back through the story after I complete the first draft and add in what I have missed. As I go along, the story will build on itself and I will find that I need to go back earlier in the book to include an explanation or flesh out a story line. I may even add a minor character and it is not uncommon at all for me to add scenes to the story that I realized somewhere toward the end must exist in order for a reader to understand the world she is reading about.
Again, this is where an editor really earns their keep. After I have read some passages 20 or 30 times, and the whole book six or seven times, the story is so internalized for me that it is difficult to remember what is on the page and what is still stuck in some corner of my mind. My editor lets me know when there is a break in continuity. It is not my favorite thing to hear that I have left something out or explained something poorly. Better to hear it from an editor, though, than from a reader.